Presented in Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2013, Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener are soaring.  The collaborative duo brings personal and visceral performance to audiences, sharing both their ideas and bodies as creators and dance performers. Mitchell and Riener, both Bessie award winners and veteran Merce Cunningham dancers, have been collaborating since 2009;  their first major collaboration last year being the acclaimed piece, Nox, choreographed by Mitchell with Riener and executed with writer, Anne Carson.  The work reflected on impermanence, death and mourning, tinged with hope like searching for light in darkness.  Some said this piece could be seen as an honored farewell to their Cunningham roots as they both continued forward evolving their own artistic aesthetics.

Both Mitchell and Riener are interested in exploring different modalities of collaboration.  They currently have several different projects in the making and have already created and presented many new pieces this year.  Among them: TASTE, at the BFI Gallery as part of the O’Miami poetry festival, a collaboration between the two men with Claudia La Rocco and Davison Scandrett; Interface, by Mitchell with input by Riener and the dancers as part of the spring season at Baryshnikov Arts Center;  VEAL, by Riener in conjunction with Mitchell and dancer Cori Kresge as a part of Harrison Atelier’s large-scale architectural installation at the Invisible Dog Art Center;  And now in early July, r e v e a l, by Riener in collaboration with Mitchell and Kresge, as part of the River to River Festival 2013 in Lower Manhattan.

r e v e a l is created specifically for the site of the Elevated Acre, yet is informed by the material in VEAL, giving a vastly different transformational experience to the viewing.  r e v e a l  responds in part to Riener and Mitchell’s interest in how dance takes on new identity and personality within the context in which it is seen and how local environments shape and keep material alive, allowing for a continued sense of play and inspiration.

Mitchell and Riener are interested in finding fresh ways of making something personal in the public arena.  After leaving the Cunningham company and as they continued to develop their own performance and movement language, the two were at times sensitive and conscious of the idea of “dancers and bodies on display.”  Riener mentioned how the piece, TASTE, (now called WAY IN as the piece transforms into its new incarnation), is a response to this idea along with how they were informed by their chosen site location in downtown Miami.  In one of the sections in TASTE, Riener and Mitchell’s limbs and torsos convulse and twist around one another as they transform into fighting caged animals. All the while La Rocco prances the cement enclosure in heels displaying  “object,”  “working girls,” “economy of judgment,” “stationary perversity” …written on signs above her head, as a ring girl.  On-looker characters casually smoke cigars and pour champagne as they lean on a sports car whose stereo blasts the baroque notes of French composer Lully.  After the performance was complete, while standing outside, Mitchell and Riener greeted their audience bare-chested and covered in champagne, as they passed an Italian ice back and forth in the heat of South Florida.

When asked about the collaborative process between the two, Mitchell and Riener both graciously glanced at each other with affirmative eyes and smiled as they explained how they come together with equal creative footing – no gavel, no ultimate decision-maker.  The trust and power between the two was palpable as they naturally took cues from one another just as they would instinctually on the dance floor.  Without a doubt, the two are a fertile creative ground. They explained how they take the creative friction between them and fold it into a larger conversation.


Writer: Kerry Stichweh
Choreography: Rashaun and Silas
Director/Photographer: Michael Williams